Long before the current crisis, Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, describing the state of relations between Russia and the United States, began to use the expression “sleepwalking (sleepwalking) sliding towards a nuclear catastrophe.” Even earlier, in 1998, another senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, called the beginning of NATO expansion to the East “the road to nuclear war.”
In the light of such predictions, supported by a large number of leading American experts, the easiest solution for Washington would be to refuse further NATO expansion, or at least declare a moratorium on it for 15-20 years. Then proceed to comprehensive negotiations with Russia and some other global powers on the creation of a new European and world security architecture, since the old systems have ceased to work.
Such a step on the part of the West would be perceived by Russia as a gesture of goodwill, the crisis intensity would subside, and it would be possible to move on in search of mutually acceptable compromises, but instead the crisis continues to flare up. Explosions at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, fortunately, were avoided, but they could lead to a nuclear catastrophe much more powerful than Chernobyl.
After Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s call for the physical elimination of the Russian president, it may seem that all the bridges have been burned. However, there are also reasonable voices, including former government officials, international experts and even CIA agents.
At the Committee for the Republic videoconference a few days ago, many of the 150 attendees acknowledged that America was the main driver of this crisis.
Earlier, Izvestia already mentioned the initiative of a large group of American and Russian women, which called on the public to be more active in de-escalating tensions between our countries. This initiative is now being taken up by a wider circle calling on the presidents to hold a summit as soon as possible.
Today’s events are a great disappointment for all activists of public diplomacy who were engaged in improving relations between the two countries.
In April 1989, we held the first major conference in Moscow with prominent American and Russian politicians and international experts to discuss the prospects for future mutually beneficial relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. These conferences became regular and took place both in Moscow and Washington in the auditoriums of the Congress.
I remember the end of 1991, when about 300 representatives of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), which had more than 30 thousand members in 142 countries with a total income of $ 9 trillion, flew to Moscow. They were invited to celebrate the New Year in the magnificent halls of the Kremlin, along with members of the Russian government, as well as the business and intellectual elite.
US Ambassador James Collins was the guest of honor, sitting at the head of the table with Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov and Speaker of Parliament Ruslan Khazbulatov. The next day, the Russian participants in this meeting received the Americans at their homes.
A new era has dawned. America’s popularity was unprecedented with a positive rating of over 90%. Joint Russian-American business ventures were rapidly created throughout the country. One such project was the American University in Moscow, where overseas professors were to lecture Russian students on the intricacies of the market economy and other subjects that were not previously included in the curricula of the USSR.
A large number of members of Congress supported these initiatives. One of them was Republican Kurt Weldon of Pennsylvania, who collected input from American business and non-governmental organizations and published a pamphlet called “New Times, New Beginnings.” About 100 members of Congress signed in support of these projects, including Senator Joe Biden.
In turn, President George W. Bush spoke about the need to create a global security arc from Vancouver to Vladivostok, but, unfortunately, after Bush lost to Bill Clinton in November 1992, Washington began to abandon almost all of these ideas.
In words, Clinton followed the same course, but the deeds and results were completely opposite. He called President Yeltsin Boris, his best friend, and even helped him get re-elected in 1996.
In fact, both in economic and security matters, Washington cynically took advantage of Russia’s weakness, completely ignoring its interests. And, as mentioned earlier, Clinton’s most dramatic move was the decision to begin the process of NATO expansion to the East. This was the beginning of the current crisis.
Of course, all these are just nostalgic, but important memories for history. Returning to the present, we must admit that we have big problems. President Biden does not have the same qualities and authority in the country as John F. Kennedy, who could afford to compromise with Nikita Khrushchev to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
A growing number of experts say the Ukraine crisis risks turning into a nuclear one and the situation is so serious that the Pentagon has set up a hotline with the military in Moscow to avoid an accidental conflict between the superpowers. The same line was established in 2017 when both countries conducted air operations over Syria.
This, of course, is good. But not enough. We need a Putin-Biden summit. The main thing is not to be a passive observer of events.
The author is a political scientist, president of the American University in Moscow
The position of the editors may not coincide with the opinion of the author
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